New Publication: Seeking Transparency: Rock Crystals Across the Medieval Mediterranean, Edited by Cynthia Hahn and Avinoam Shalem

Like the sea, and the watery medium with which rock crystal is identified in the Middle Ages, the history of its production during the Middle Ages ebbs and flows. From Late Antiquity to the age of the great Portuguese expansion, specific knowledge about carving the hard material, was kept a closely guarded secret in just a few centers of production.

All the while, royal courts and wealthy churches were eager patrons for the luxurious objects given that rock crystal was valued as one of the most desirable and precious of all materials, ascribed mysterious origins and powers, and renowned for both rarity and clarity. This collection of essays reveals the global and cross-cultural histories of rock-crystal production in and even beyond the lands of the Mediterranean Sea. It investigates many objects and varied aspects of rock crystal such as: the physical nature and legendary as well as actual origins of the material; its manufacturing techniques and affiliations to other luxurious objects, such as cut glass and carved precious stones; legends and traditions associated with its aesthetic qualities; as well as issues concerning its varied functions and historiography. 

The editors:

  • Cynthia Hahn is Professor in Art History at Hunter College, CUNY.
  • Avinoam Shalem is Riggio Professor of the History of the Arts of Islam at Columbia University, New York.

With contributions from:

Zainab Bahrani, Isabelle Bardiès, Farid Benfeghoul, Brigitte Buettner, Patrick R. Crowley, Beate Fricke, Marisa Galvez, Stefania Gerevini, Cynthia Hahn, Jeremy Johns, Genevra Kornbluth, Jens Kröger, Ingeborg Krueger, Elise Morero, Bissera V. Pentcheva, Marcus Pilz, Stéphane Pradines, Venetia Porter, Hara Procopiou, Avinoam Shalem, Gia Toussaint, Roberto Vargiolu und Hassan Zahouani.

Order the book here.

Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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